FROM INDEPENDENCE TO THE CIVIL WAR
in the Revolution
Pennsylvanians may take pride in the dominant role played by their state in the early development of the national government. At the same time that Pennsylvania was molding its own statehood, it was providing leadership and a meeting place for the men concerned with building a nation. Philadelphia was the nation's capital during the Revolution, except when the British threat caused the capital to be moved, respectively, to Baltimore, Lancaster, and York. While Congress was sitting in York (October 1777 - June 1778), it approved the Articles of Confederation, the first step toward a national government. After the war, the capital was moved to New York, but from 1790 until the opening of the District of Columbia in 1800, Philadelphia was again the capital. In 1787, the U.S. Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia.
Declaration of Independence
The movement to defend American rights grew into the movement for independence in the meetings of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
War for Independence
Pennsylvania troops took part in almost all the campaigns of the Revolution. The battles of Brandywine, Germantown, and Whitemarsh were important engagements of this period. Following these battles, Washington went into winter quarters at Valley Forge from December 1777 to June 1778. News of the French alliance, which Benjamin Franklin had helped to negotiate, and the adoption of new strategy caused the British to leave Philadelphia in the spring of 1778. Frontier Pennsylvania suffered heavily from British and Indian raids until they were answered in 1779 by John Sullivan's and Daniel Brodhead's expeditions against the Six Nations Indians. The products of Pennsylvania farms, factories, and mines were essential to the success of the Revolutionary armies. At Carlisle, a Continental ordnance arsenal turned out cannons, swords, pikes, and muskets. The state actively encouraged the manufacture of gunpowder.
Founding a Commonwealth
Pennsylvania's part in the American Revolution was complicated by political changes within the state, constituting a Pennsylvania revolution of which not all patriots approved. Committees gradually took over the reins of government, and in June 1776 these committees called a state convention to meet on July 15, 1776. The convention superseded the old government completely, established a Council of Safety to rule in the interim, and drew up the first state constitution, adopted on Sept. 28, 1776. Many patriot leaders were bitterly opposed to the new Pennsylvania constitution.
Constitution of 1790
By 1789, the conservatives felt strong enough to rewrite the state constitution, and the Assembly called a convention to meet in November. In the convention, both the conservative majority and the radical minority showed a tendency to compromise and to settle their differences along moderate lines. As a result, the new constitution embodied the best ideas of both parties and was adopted with little objection.
Founding a Nation
and the United States Constitution
Because of a lack of central power, as well as financial difficulties, the Articles of Confederation could no longer bind together the newly independent states. As a result, the Federal Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in 1787. The structure that evolved remains the basis of our government today.
Large areas of the northern and western parts of the state were undisturbed or undeveloped in 1790, and many other sections were thinly populated. The state adopted generous land policies, distributed free "Donation Lands" to Revolutionary veterans and offered other lands at reasonable prices to actual settlers. By 1860, with the possible exception of the northern tier counties, population was scattered throughout the state. There was increased urbanization, although rural life remained strong and agriculture involved large numbers of people.
By 1861, the factory system largely had replaced the domestic system of home manufacture. The change was most noticeable after 1840 because of a shift to machinery and factories in the textile industry. By 1860, there were more than two hundred textile mills. Leathermaking, lumbering, shipbuilding, publishing, and tobacco and paper manufacture also prospered in the 1800s. Pennsylvania's outstanding industrial achievements were in iron and steel. Its production of iron was notable even in colonial times, and the charcoal furnaces of the state spread into the Juniata and western regions during the mid-1800s. Foundries, rolling mills, and machine shops became numerous and, by the Civil War, the state rolled about half the nation's iron, aiding the development of railroads.
The settlement of new regions of the state was accompanied by provisions for new roads. The original Lancaster Pike connecting Philadelphia with Lancaster was completed in 1794. By 1832, the state led the nation in improved roads, having more than three thousand miles. The National or Cumberland Road was a major route for western movement before 1850. Between 1811 and 1818, the section of this road in Pennsylvania was built through Somerset, Fayette, and Washington Counties. It is now Route 40.
Most of the state's major cities were built along important river routes. Although canals declined rapidly with the advent of the railroad, Pennsylvania's ports and waterways remained active.
Rail transport began in 1827, operated at first by horse power or cables. The tracks connected anthracite fields with canals or rivers. The Columbia and Philadelphia Railroad, completed in 1834 as part of the State Works, was the first ever built by a government. Major railroads chartered in the state included the Philadelphia and Reading (1833) and the Lehigh Valley (1846, reincorporated 1853). However, the most important of all was the Pennsylvania Railroad, chartered April 13, 1846, and completed to Pittsburgh by 1852. It absorbed so many short railroad lines by 1860 that it had nearly a monopoly on rail traffic from Chicago through Pennsylvania.
|<<Back to the The Founding of PA Page|